Cold? No, journalism and the newsroom makes you too sensitive

I am here. Again. On a new blog.  Is this the third time I am founding a new blog this year? Yes it is. To tame this blogosphere promiscuity, I bought the domain verahokeyo.com. Next time I am tempted to move, I will cry for my Ksh 1,900(or  18USD).

It is Friday. Kenyans and their overly social tendencies are going out to clubs to “get down”  and drink. I, with a near nonexistent social life, am seated at my desk at work trying to write a feature about pope Francis’ visit to Kenya.

I am going through the events of the day. I am disappointed at myself because I have travelled more than I have worked these last two months. My boss, a very considerate and fair man, does not like that. So I have, in my diary, set deadlines to get back to his good books.

As I go through my notes, I remember this couple, poor but loving folks, terrified that they may not be able to raise Sh5 million (about 48,000USD) for their baby’s liver transplant on time. I do not know why the voice of the father is still hanging on my memory…this cloying scent of desperation in his voice laced with hope. I run my hands through my dreadlocks. I need to write this story to inform—like raise awareness on the medical condition the baby has— rather than ask the public to give money to save the baby.I want this story to have a good ending, unlike one that my colleague Eunice wrote where the patient ended up dying  .Then suddenly, I realise that this is not the first tragic story that I will come across in this career.

When I began my job in 2013, I stood beside a thug whose chest had been sprayed with bullets and on his hands was a phone ringing. “Lovely wife” was calling the deceased. When the bodies of the more than 100 students who were shot in Garissa were ferried to Nairobi, I stood there watching mothers and fathers weep for their babies and even from a distance—physical and familial— I could feel their pain. As they talked to us, each of them had such personal statements like “I never got to say goodbye”, “I have lost my only child and best friend”, “We had quarreled and I never got to tell them I loved them”. The bodies of those kids lying on the cold slab in the morgue erected a picture of my little brother Mike on my mind. Mike is an annoying brat that I love with every fibre of my being and would give my life for any time. At that moment, I took my glasses to hide my tears as I picked my phone to tell Mike it was okay for him to go to that hideous party I had forbidden him from attending. For me, sun glasses is an accessory and a tool to mask display of reactions to what I see.

For me, as may journalist, sun glasses is an accessory and a tool to mask the display of reactions to what we see PHOTO/BILLY MUTAI
For me, sun glasses is an accessory and a tool to mask the display of reactions to what I see PHOTO/BILLY MUTAI

I thought I would steel my nerves as days go by. While I have learnt to cope with the pain that I see in the line of duty, my awareness and the desire to have some sort of power of alleviating people’s pain has heightened.

It is a roller coaster. The next day you would sit at a press conference watch a government official tell such blatant lies and give excuses for their failure at their work, mistakes that may have cost people their lives and you would give up on humanity. The following day I would go to Kenyatta National Hospital and that hope would be restored. I would sit there at the casualty department and watch nurses and doctors working under such pressure for such long hours. It would understandable for them to be irritable and become rude but you would see them giving their all to save a life with every emergency that comes.

Journalism reminds you, on a daily basis, the fragility of life and the need to cherish every moment you have. We cover war and never get to raise guns at anyone, you learn to be compassionate because we have the “luxury” to see the ones affected most by the war apart from the combatants: the children, women, broken families and lives lost.

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